Wedding is a traditional and elaborate ritual in itself, composed of a whole lot of individual rituals that are celebrated to mark the occasion of the union of the bride and the groom. And the sacred vivah homa plays a significant role in the Hindu wedding ceremony that has been on for ages, serving an integral part of Hindu religious beliefs. What exactly is the role of Homa (or Homam) in general and the Vivah Homa in particular?
Lord Agni: Hinduism is a way of life than a religion, where there are meanings and significances attached with every aspect of life. Homam is the representation of Lord Agni, the God of fire. Fire is immortal (since it can be created over and over again) and is capable of reducing any tangible material into smoke and ashes. Hence, Agni is the acceptor of sacrifices of the material world, and is an interface between this world and the spiritual plane. Sacrifices and oblations are communicated to the spiritual plane of the Gods through Agni. Interestingly, Agni also plays an important role in Tibetan text as well as in Buddhism.
The Sacred Homa: This is the ritual where Agni is created, worshipped, and consecrated to facilitate oblation and sacrifices as part of customs and traditions. Homa plays an integral role in the Epics and Puranas of the Hindu religion, where rishis and sages have performed penance under extreme conditions and in pure union with the Almighty, worshipping Lord Agni and offering sacrifices to God through Agni. Such a ritual involving the Agni is known to be an effective way of invoking the divine powers.
Vivah Homa and Pratigna-karan or Saptha Padhi: The Hindu wedding is never complete without invoking the divine powers through Mantras, Vedas, and Agni. The very significance of the Vivah Homa lies in the fact that fire is looked upon as Lord Agni, and the offerings that are made during the sacred union of the bride and the groom are presented to God through the interface of Agni. And the way Agni is created, consecrated, worshipped and revered as an interface between the rituals of the Hindu wedding and the divine forces is through Vivah Homa.
While the Vivah Homa plays an integral role in the Hindu Wedding right from the beginning of the elaborate rituals to the very end, the significance is striking after Mangalya Dharanam and Paani Grahanam, in the practice called Pratigna-karan or Saptha Padhi. The newlywed bride and the groom, holding each other’s right hand, walk around the Vivah Homa taking seven steps.
The first step that they take together is for happiness and health, the second step is for physical, mental and spiritual health and progression, the third step is for wealth through righteousness, the fourth is for mutual trust, knowledge and harmony, the fifth is for being blessed with adorable children, the sixth is for a long life, and the seventh is for them to commit to each other that they would remain true companions forever. They undertake this oath during the solemn occasion of their wedding in front of the pure and immortal Lord Agni, invoking the Gods and all the Deities in Hindu tradition.